A driver who drove off the road and into a river bed after drinking alcohol avoided jail today (Wednesday).
Robert Buzalski downed 30 percent alcohol vodka liqueur with friends Marcin Kopij, 37, and Krysztof Birula, 35, before getting behind the wheel of a Hyundai i30 hire car on a farm road near Edzell, Angus.
Buzalski crashed the car while one and a half times the drink drive limit during “horrendous” weather conditions - smashing into the bank of a river gorge before plunging down a steep embankment into the river bed.
Mr Birula was left with horrific injuries in a crash that witnesses said they were “amazed” to see Buzalski and Mr Kopij walk away from.
Mr Birula had to be cut free by firefighters and was left paralysed and wheelchair bound for life as a result of a broken back sustained when the car rolled down the embankment. Forfar Sheriff Court heard the victim did not want his friend jailed and that Buzalski had moved back to Poland to help fund his care.
Mr Birula was unable to travel to court to give evidence and instead a statement taken from him recounting the events was read to the court. It said: “It was dark, the weather was typical of Scotland – drizzle, rain. Buzalski was driving normally, he did not drive fast.
“Suddenly Marcin Kopij told Buzalski ‘Watch out, we’re being drawn off the road’.
“I fell off the seat and I think I hit my head. I said to Buzalski that I could not move an arm or leg. The next thing I remember is waking up in hospital.”
Farmer Robert Myles told the jury: “I saw where the car had gone off the road and down a steep embankment into to the burn. Kryysztof was still in the car and was trapped. Robert was very upset and traumatised.
“I was amazed anyone had walked away from that. I think there was a tree which slowed the car’s descent – which must have helped.”
Crash investigator PC Michael Cargill said calculations made during a probe into the crash showed the car was travelling around 29mph when it left the road.
Mr Myles had told the court that 20mph was the “ideal” speed for that part of the road.
Giving evidence in his own defence Buzalski - who suffered four broken ribs himself in the smash - said he had been celebrating his forthcoming wedding with his two friends. Their intention was to drive to the end of the farm road at Dalbog, near Edzell, and then call for a taxi into the village. But he said he “felt fine” after drinking the vodka and chose to drive.
Buzalski said: “I think about it every day, it’s very hard. I ask myself every evening, why did it have to happen?”
He added: “He (Birula) was a friend, close friends, you could say. Any time I can go and visit him, I try to support him. When I can’t go to visit him, I call him.”
Summing up the Crown case, fiscal depute Joanne Smith said: “The way he (Buzalski) drove falls far below what would be expected of a careful and competent driver, and it would be obvious to a careful and competent driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.”
Buzalski, 36, of Sandpiper House, Ruthvenfield Road, Perth, denied a charge on indictment of causing serious injury to Krysztof Birula by dangerous driving.
The crash took place on August 24, 2013, on a farm road leading from Cornes Cottage to Dalbog Farm near Edzell, Angus.
But a jury of eight men and seven women found him guilty following a four day trial.
Sheriff Pino di Emidio imposed a community payback order with 300 hours unpaid work and disqualified him from driving for four years.
He said: “The terrible consequences of your driving have had a significant impact on Mr Birula and his family.
“Nothing I can do in this court can lessen the hurt done to him.
“It’s a remarkable testament to Mr Birula that he remains a friend of yours and holds no ill will against you.”